By Manna Zel
2020 is drawing to a close, so let’s end the year with some more good news—from necessary changes in the Los Angeles County justice system, to a heart-warming pen-pal program, to the COVID-19 vaccinations being rolled out to healthcare workers across the country.
November 25: L.A. County Moves to Create New Juvenile Justice System Focused on ‘Care,’ Not Punishment (LA Times)
New plans from Los Angeles County emphasize emotional support, counseling, and treatment for children and young adults who have committed crimes as LA aims to deconstruct what is the largest youth justice system in the entire country. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is transitioning juvenile probation into a Department of Youth Development. This new approach advocates that children and young adults who have committed crimes should be cared for in home-like settings, including 24/7 youth centers and support teams.
December 7: MSNBC Names Rashida Jones as President (The New York Times)
Rashida Jones is taking charge at MSNBC—becoming the first Black woman to lead a major television news network. Jones, who joined the MSNBC team seven years ago, was most recently a senior vice president for news at MSNBC and NBC News. Jones is replacing previous MSNBC president Phil Griffin, and she’s been praised by NBCUniversal News Group chairman Cesar Conde as having “laserlike focus and grace under pressure.”
December 7: On First Day as L.A. County D.A., George Gascón Eliminates Bail, Remakes Sentencing Rules (LA Times)
After defeating incumbent district attorney Jackie Lacey, George Gascón intends to bring some changes to Los Angeles County—like an end to cash bail, a ban on prosecutors pushing for harsher sentences, and more grace for low-level offenders. In a speech at his swearing-in ceremony, Gascón said, “I recognize for many this is a new path… whether you are a protestor, a police officer, or a prosecutor, I ask you to walk with me. I ask you to join me on this journey. We can break the multigenerational cycles of violence, trauma, and arrest and recidivism that has led America to incarcerate more people than any other nation.”
December 8: How the Snail-Mail Renaissance Is Soothing Americans Tired of Zoom (WSJ)
When New Yorker staff writer Rachel Syme got a vintage typewriter, she couldn’t wait to use it—so she went to Twitter in search of a pen pal. And so began #PenPalooza, which has since matched over 7,000 pen pals. Members send letters, art, and anything in between.
“I am always impressed and surprised every day by what people are able to do! One member shipped an entire carton of farm-fresh eggs from her chickens to her pen pal via the US Postal Service, and they made it without cracking,” Syme said.
December 14: How the First COVID-19 Vaccinations Rolled Out at Hospitals Across the U.S. (TIME)
The COVID-19 vaccines have officially landed in the U.S, with New York intensive care nurse Sandra Lindsay being one of the first to receive the vaccination—on live television, no less. The Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and are set to review Moderna’s vaccine this week. There are limited doses, but public health experts hope this advancement will lead to the beginning of the pandemic’s end.
December 17: Biden Will Pick Deb Haaland to Lead Interior Department (The New York Times)In a historic move, President-elect Joe Biden has selected New Mexico Representative Deb Haaland (D) to head the Interior Department—making Rep. Haaland the first Native American person to be appointed to the White House cabinet. The Interior Department is the agency most responsible for Indigenous wellbeing and oversees hundreds of millions of acres of public lands, from national parks to endangered species habitats. In addition to heading up the Bureau of Indian Education and the Bureau of Trust Funds Administration, Rep. Haaland will be a key part of the team that implements Biden’s environmental agenda. In a statement, Rep. Haaland wrote, “It would be an honor to move the Biden-Harris climate agenda forward, help repair the government to government relationship with Tribes that the Trump Administration has ruined, and serve as the first Native American cabinet secretary in our nation’s history.”